UPDATE: Dharun Ravi And Molly Wei
GRAND JURY HANDS UP 15 COUNT INDICTMENT AGAINST ROOMMATE OF TYLER CLEMENTI.
from the article by Kelly Heyboer and Tom Haydon – The Star-Ledger (NJ)
In the days after Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide, his roommate tried to cover up his alleged role in using a webcam to secretly watch Clementi in an intimate encounter with another man, prosecutors said today.
Dharun Ravi, 19, misled investigators by deleting text messages from his phone and changing an incriminating post about the webcam on his Twitter account, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said. The teenager also allegedly tried to convince friends not to testify against him.
A grand jury indicted Ravi, of Plainsboro, on 15 counts today as prosecutors for the first time labeled the case a hate crime. If convicted of the most serious charges, Ravi could face five to 10 years in prison, Kaplan said.
Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge Sept. 22, shortly after learning about the webcam. His story became national news as an example of gay bashing and cyber bullying.
The indictment handed up by a Middlesex County grand jury in New Brunswick included two counts of invasion of privacy and two counts of attempted invasion of privacy Ravi was charged with shortly after Clementi’s suicide.
But the indictment also included several new charges related to Ravi’s alleged attempts to dupe investigators by deleting text messages and replacing one of his Twitter posts with a new statement designed to mislead police. The additional charges include three counts each of tampering with evidence and hindering his own apprehension and a single count of witness tampering, the prosecutor said.
Ravi was also indicted on several bias charges. Investigators said he targeted his roommate because Clementi was gay. Though prosecutors did not give specifics, they said the evidence of Ravi’s bias crimes date back to Aug. 6, the day he learned his roommate’s name.
“The grand jury indictment spells out cold and calculated acts against our son, Tyler, by his former college roommate,” Clementi’s parents, Jane and Joe, said in a statement released through their attorney.
“If these facts are true, as they appear to be, then it is important for our criminal justice system to establish clear accountability under the law. We are eager to have the process move forward for justice in this case and to reinforce the standards of acceptable conduct in our society.”
Steve Altman, Ravi’s attorney, said tonight he has to review the indictment with his client. Ravi, who withdrew from Rutgers, has not resumed his education. But he hopes to enroll in another school later this year, Altman said. He is free on $25,000 bail.
The charges against Molly Wei, the other student accused of spying on Clementi, were not presented to the grand jury “at this time,” Kaplan said. The case remains open and the charges against Wei are still pending, he said.
Kaplan did not say if Wei, 19, of West Windsor, would testify against Ravi if the case goes to trial. Wei’s attorney did not return calls for comment.
Investigators said Ravi was in Wei’s room Sept. 19 when he used her laptop to remotely turn on a webcam in the room he shared with Clementi on Rutgers’ Busch campus in Piscataway. Wei and Ravi, who were both graduates of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, allegedly watched two men in a romantic encounter.
“Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay,” Ravi wrote in a Sept. 19 post on his Twitter page that was later taken down.
Prosecutors identified the men as T.C. and M.B. to protect their identities. Clementi’s family identified him as one of the men. M.B. has never been publicly identified.
Altman, Ravi’s attorney, has previously said the images viewed on Wei’s computer showed nothing more than hugging and kissing and were never transmitted to others.
Two days later, Ravi allegedly tried and failed to use the webcam to catch Clementi in a second private encounter with the same man after telling friends where to log on to watch. Clementi allegedly found out about the webcam and filed a complaint with Rutgers officials Sept. 22.
The 18-year-old accomplished violinist from Ridgewood committed suicide later that day after posting “jumping off the gw bridge sorry” on his Facebook page.
State Attorney General Paula Dow hailed Ravi’s indictment as a step to stem bigotry.
“This indictment is an important step in this heartbreaking case,” Dow said. “New Jersey’s bias law recognizes the terrible harm caused by acts of bigotry and hatred and imposes harsher punishment on those who commit such crimes.”
Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest gay rights organization, also praised the indictment as another step in the campaign against bullying.
“We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler Clementi deeply. Today is a day of justice,” Goldstein said.
To view the Dharun Ravi’s iChat log at full size, just click on the image.
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